The FT reports that the Syrian economy is collapsing: but that it is also de-facto stabilized because territory lost to the opposition means that it can reduce expenditure. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.
Interestingly, the Syrian government’s main sources of income now seem to be patronage from friendly overseas tycoons, smuggling and sanctions busting and seizure of resources from people deemed to be hostile. In other words, it has reached a point of equilibrium with the rebel economy. Everyone’s a militia now.
And on the subject of the Syrian rebel military-political-economy, read this outstanding account from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, starting from the ground up. A battalion is born:
‘A very good man, a seeker of good deeds – he is from our town but he lives in the Gulf – told me he would fund my new battalion. He says he will pay for our ammunition and we get to keep all the spoils of the fighting. We just have to supply him with videos.’
‘But why would he do that? What’s he getting in return?’
‘He wants to appease God, and he wants us to give him videos of all our operations. That’s all – just YouTube videos.’
‘So he can get more money.’
‘Well, that’s up to him.’
So the implication is that the 'seeker of good deeds' is a middleman brokering insurgent videos around to see who's up for sponsorship, in much the same way that the missus gets pictures of Muffin and April from the donkey sanctuary she supports, except that here we have an incredible driver for atrocity footage.
But read the whole thing: it's great stuff with the best insight yet as to what the US may actually be up to on the ground in sponsoring acceptable insurgent groups. The problem here seems to be that the secular/conservative networks seem to be fissile, hyper-competitive and subject to a massively overcomplicated delivery structure, while the Islamists are coherent, have a shorter logistics tail and seem less liable to put one over on each other. Perhaps this is an insight into a forthcoming post-Assad stage of the civil war.